Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

How Do You Shut Someone Up? Stick An Earpiece In Their Ear!

Thursday 25th June

There was a strange noise. I searched for the source but couldn’t find it. It appeared to be coming from somewhere outside the comforting world of my dreams.

Stumbling into consciousness my waking brain was trying to work out what was going on. There was some kind of alarm going off.

It wasn’t my wake up alarm. What was it? This persistent tuneful jangle. Ah, that’ll be the phone.

I fumbled for it and with a weary “hello”, I answered.

It was Miranda to ask if she could get the keys to my car because she had left her make up bag inside.

I was inwardly cursing as I looked at the out of focus time on the phone. I was being deprived of a whole five minutes of sleep.

I got up, stuck the keys outside my room for her to collect and then switched off the alarm that was about to go off.

Once I was ready I got in the car and headed for the location.

I was almost there when the phone rang in the car. 

The familiar voice of Pete asked if everything was alright.

I told him that I was almost at the location, Marlene’s house/caravan.

Pete then asked me to confirm he was at the correct address. He was.

He then expressed surprise that he could not see the satellite truck. I thought it strange because the trucks are often on location a while before we arrive.

By this time I was turning into the road. Sure enough there was no sign of the truck.

Perhaps it is round the back which would be ideal for access.

I turned into the narrow lane that ran behind the small terraced houses. The entrance to the lane was strange because it felt like I was driving into someone's front garden.

I got to a row of garages facing each other and there it was nestled  slightly under a tree. The dish was already up.

Pete followed me round.

There was not a great deal of room to work because the large caravan took up most of the back garden, leaving a narrow passage leading to the house.

The Truck Hidden Away for a Change.

Visually it should look good the cramped space with Miranda squeezing down it would add to her words and those of Marlene.

The Caravan's In There Somewhere.

Lawrence brought the cable in as Pete and I got our gear sorted out.

There was plenty of time and we were all quite relaxed apart from the diminutive Marlene. She kept on asking why she had let herself get into this lark.

Trying to jolly her along I attached the camera cable to the box at the end of the cable from the truck.

We continued to chat light-heartedly to try and put Marlene at ease.

I was then aware that Lawrence had laid in another cable.

He said that there was a fault and we needed to change cables.

That’s no problem as there was still plenty of time to go. I connected the new cable and carried on with the PR stuff.

I wandered back to the truck to find Lawrence pressing various red buttons and switching things off and on. 

That’s never a good sign. We were creeping up to the time of our broadcast.

“There’s a problem with the cable or the box.” said Lawrence.

“Are you happy to go with the Digi Link?” he asked. 

The question was more in the form of a firm request.

The Digi Link is a bit of kit that is attached to the back of the camera and it sends pictures and sound back to the truck without the need of a cable.

In theory that is a perfect way of doing things because dragging a cable can be a pain for both the cameraman and the sound recordist.

As is often the case practice does not always fit in with theory.

The Digi Link eats up battery power with the appetite of a hungry Homer in a doughnut shop.

The thing sometimes also has the tendency to work perfectly when it shouldn’t and not when it should.

We started to put the bits on to the camera.

I heard Dave the Technical Director over talkback tell us that our slot in the programme was getting closer.

We got it all sorted just in time to get the first live out of the way without mishap or indeed any frantic stress.

Next on the agenda was on of my pet hates.

We were to do a “Down The Line” with Jan and Marlene.

This is where the Presenter in the GMTV Studio speaks directly to the guest and conducts the interview.

Today was almost a prime example of why I don’t like doing them.

When we told the two ladies what was planned and that they would have a earpiece in their ears and be speaking to Ben Shephard on the sofa in London they were not in the least impressed.

Both Jan and Marlene expressed deep concern and made no bones about how nervous they were.

Miranda, Pete and I tried to put them as much at ease as possible.

Before we came to our slot they both sat with their earpieces in looking as if they were about to face a grilling from a combination of Paxman, Cowell and the spectre of Robin Day.

A few moments before they were to go on air I was pretty concerned about how it would go.

Yesterday and for part of this morning it was hard to shut Jan up. She could easily win a talking until someone's ears bleed competition.

Marlene was a bit more reserved yet talkative.

When Simon the Director and Dave the Technical Director spoke to them over the talkback to say good morning they just looked at each other. Then looked at me. Then kind of mumbled and looked at the table.

There was no time for me to gently repeat the instruction to look straight down the camera lens and treat it as if they were speaking to their best friend through it. The PA was counting out of the VT.

I mentally crossed my fingers. It was about at that point that the earpiece in Jan's ear started to slowly work its way out.

A Nervous Pair Before "The Down The Line".

Ben addressed his first question to Jan.

She looked straight down the lens and rather nervously answered the question.

I could see the earpiece dangling out of her ear. I was amazed that she could still hear.

Ben then talked to Marlene. She also answered the question in a very nervous way, but at least the pair of them had not looked foolish.

We complimented them on their performance and said that they would not have to do that again. They were very happy and as Pete removed the talkback units you would have thought that he flicked a switch to return them to their normal selves.

We did another broadcast with just Miranda into the eight o’clock news before packing up the kit.

We then hung around for a while in case the programme needed us again before heading off in our opposite directions.

Miranda was staying to so another story. Pete and Lawrence went back to their bases in Manchester and I headed north via the M6.

There was a little excitement on the motorway around Manchester. I got behind a prison van with a full police escort. Whoever was in it must have been a very naughty boy or girl.

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